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Friday, 19 August 2016

Native Americans in the United States


In the pre-Columbian era the heads of North American East Coast Indian men were generally entirely shaven, with shell or stone knives, save for a ridge, or comb, of hair along the crown of the head. Plains Indians wore two long plaits, as Indian women did generally

There were no pre-Columbian American Indians with blood type B. The American Indians are Type A or type O, and exclusively O all the way from the southern edge of the last glacier to the Horn at the southern tip of South America.

The early Indians of North America lived in a number of different types of shelter. In the Northeast, round houses or rectangular longhouses were built from bent poles covered with deerskin. The Penobscot Indians erected wigwams covered with birch bark. The Iroquois built large longhouses covered with bark shingles. In the Southwest, certain tribes built pueblos from adobe and stone.

Cultural areas of pre-Columbian North America, according to Alfred Kroeber

Long before Christopher Columbus, American Indians wore war paints extracted from fruits, vegetables, and berries. Animal fats protected their skin from harsh weather.


There were about 50 million Indians living in the Western Hemisphere in 1492.

Samoset (c. 1590–1653) was the first Native American to make contact with the Mayflower Pilgrims. On March 16, 1621, the settlers were more than surprised when Samoset strolled straight through the middle of the encampment at Plymouth Colony and greeted them in English, which he had begun to learn from English fishermen frequenting the waters of what now is Maine.

"Interview of Samoset with the Pilgrims", book engraving, 1853

The word Redskin was actually invented by Native Americans to separate themselves from the "pale faces"

The phrase burying the hatchet, meaning, to end an argument or conflict, is derived from a Native American custom where a hatchet or tomahawk was buried in the ground to mark a declaration of peace.  The Burying the Hatchet ceremony happened in Nova Scotia on June 25, 1761. It ended more than seventy-five years of war between the British and the Mi'kmaq.

The Treaty of Penn with the Indians by Benjamin West painted in 1771.

The Spanish settlers first brought horses from Europe to the Southwest. Between 1650 and 1750 they spread to the plains.

After horses were brought to North America from Europe, the Plains tribes became successful mounted hunters and spent their lives following the herds.


After a mini ice age the fifteenth century brought a climate change to North America, the warmer weather allowing the Indians to move to the plains where they found plenty of buffalo to hunt. After a successful buffalo hunt an adult might consume as much as 4 lb of buffalo meat a day. They ate thin slices of raw meat from the buffalo's hump or feat on the perishable parts such as the brains, blood, kidney and liver. The meat was roasted or broiled over a campfire with the addition of just a little salt and sometimes flavourful herbs.

The meat that wasn't eaten immediately was cut into thin strips and hung up to dry. Tougher cuts were mixed with berries, melted bone fat and herbs and packed into a solid block called a "pemmican" which were kept in pouches and used by hunters and gatherers when they were away from home.

Rabbit, squirrel and deer meat was also eaten. Sometimes the Native Americans made stews to which they added a highly pungent wild onion.

Many tribes also grew crops especially maize. They held a fresh corn feast when the maize was ripe and boiled then ladled it into wooden bowls so that everyone could eat their fill. The rest of the harvest was dried and stored away. Sometimes maize, acorns, nuts, and seeds were ground, mixed with some water and salted to form a dough, and cooked like cakes in the fire.

Maize grown by Native Americans

Villagers also enjoyed meals of beans, pumpkins and squash or berries mixed with fresh blood. As a treat strawberries were eaten fresh.


American Indians had separate dances for men and for women and others in which men, women, and children took part. These dances emphasized various movements for the feet and postures for the head. Arms were not considered as important. As in many other tribal cultures, drums would beat out an accompaniment.

Secotan Indians' dance in North Carolina. Watercolor by John White, 1585

Indian children learned skills from games then as they do now. Archery, target practice, and footraces taught skills needed by the hunters.

Young people competed in athletic sports. Athletes were highly trained for intertribal contests in this game. Intervillage footraces were held by the Pueblos, and horse racing was popular among the buffalo-hunting Plains tribes.

Shinny was a woman's game. Plains women used a small buckskin-covered ball of buffalo hair.

Modern lacrosse is derived from a fast and rough North American Indian ball game called baggataway.

Ball players from the Choctaw and Lakota tribe as painted by George Catlin in the 1830s


The Smithsonian proclaims that 65 million Native Americans died from genocidal practices from 1492 -19th century.

The inaugural issue of the Cherokee Phoenix, the first newspaper in a Native American language, was published on February 21, 1828. The paper continued until 1834. The Cherokee Phoenix was revived in the later 20th century, and today it publishes both as a monthly broadsheet in Tahlequah, Oklahoma and internet versions.

Front page of the Cherokee Phoenix 1828

The Black Hawk War of 1832 was the last organised Indian resistance to American occupation.

Doaksville, Choctaw Nation, was the largest town in the Indian Territory in 1850.

After the Ponca people were forcibly removed from their land in 1877, Susette La Flesche (1854-19030 testified before Congress. Her work led to the Dawes Act in 1887, which was intended to help the assimilation of Native Americans into American society

The 1887 Dawes Act authorized the President of the United States to survey American Indian tribal land and divide it into allotments for individual Indians. Those who accepted allotments and lived separately from the tribe would be granted United States citizenship. Despite its good intentions, the act had a negative effect.

Susan LaFlesche Picotte was the first Native American to earn a medical degree, graduating at the top of her class on March 14, 1889, after a rigorous three-year course of study. She went on to treat whites and Indians alike—despite rampant sexism and racism.

The last major conflict between U.S. military forces and Native Americans took place at Wounded Knee, South Dakota on December 29, 1890. More than 200 Lakota Indians were killed, for the loss of 31 cavalry.

Mass grave for the dead Lakota following the Wounded Knee Massacre


U.S. President Calvin Coolidge signed the Indian Citizenship Act into law on June 2, 1924, granting citizenship to all Native Americans born within the territorial limits of the United States.

Many Indians, even though born in the United States, were not considered citizens until the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act granted them citizenship. Before this law was passed, those who had not been granted citizenship by specific treaties were considered members of "domestic independent nations.

The United States had a Native American Vice President from 1929-1933. His name was Charles Curtis and he was part of the Kaw tribe.

So many American Indians joined the military during World War 2 that had all Americans joined at the same proportion, conscription would not have been necessary.

During World War 2 Joe Medicine Crow, a native American, completed all four feats required to be a war chief: touching an enemy without killing him, taking an enemy's weapon, leading a war party and stealing 50 horses from the SS, singing a Crow honor song as he rode away.


The Navajo are the largest Native American tribe in the United States with 300,000 members.

There are 311 Indian reservations in the U.S., of which the biggest — belonging to the Navajo and covering parts of New Mexico, Utah and Arizona — is the same size as the Republic of Ireland. It is so large (71,000 km2), its area exceeds at least 10 US states in size.

More than 130 Native American languages are endangered. Marie Wilcox is the last fluent speaker of the Wukchumni language.


26 of the 50 states of the U.S. are named after Native American tribes.

Hard Rock Cafe is entirely owned by the Native American Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Sources Compton's Encyclopedia, Food For Thought by Ed Pearce

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